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Man, 28, accused of murdering council worker Ashley Dale wanted to ‘warn’ her boyfriend about a threat to ‘stab him up’ at Glastonbury Festival, court hears

A man accused of helping orchestrate the murder of council worker Ashley Dale told a jury he wanted to ‘warn’ her boyfriend that one of the other men accused of her killing had threatened to ‘stab him up’.

Ms Dale, 28, died after being pursued through her home and shot with a machine gun shortly after midnight on August 21 last year. Five men are currently on trial at Liverpool Crown Court accused of her murder.

Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, allegedly one of three man who directed the shooting from a flat, told jurors he would ‘never see no harm come’ to Ms Dale or her boyfriend Lee Harrison – allegedly the real target.

Another of the accused, James Witham, admits kicking down the door of her house, where she was spending the evening alone with her dachshund Darla, and spraying the property with bullets from a Skorpion submachine gun.

The 41-year-old is expected to claim he did not see or hear Ashley and was instead attempting to ‘send a message’ to Harrison, who was not present at the time.

A man accused of helping orchestrate the murder of council worker Ashley Dale (pictured) told a jury he wanted to 'warn' her boyfriend that one of the other men accused of her killing had threatened to 'stab him up' A man accused of helping orchestrate the murder of council worker Ashley Dale (pictured) told a jury he wanted to 'warn' her boyfriend that one of the other men accused of her killing had threatened to 'stab him up'

A man accused of helping orchestrate the murder of council worker Ashley Dale (pictured) told a jury he wanted to ‘warn’ her boyfriend that one of the other men accused of her killing had threatened to ‘stab him up’

Niall Barry - known as 'Branch' - is alleged to have brandished a knife and threatened to stab Ms Dale's boyfriend Lee Harrison at Glastonbury 2022. He denied having done so during his evidence last week. Barry is pictured being detained by police in Somerset on his way to Glastonbury festival on June 25, 2022 Niall Barry - known as 'Branch' - is alleged to have brandished a knife and threatened to stab Ms Dale's boyfriend Lee Harrison at Glastonbury 2022. He denied having done so during his evidence last week. Barry is pictured being detained by police in Somerset on his way to Glastonbury festival on June 25, 2022

Niall Barry – known as ‘Branch’ – is alleged to have brandished a knife and threatened to stab Ms Dale’s boyfriend Lee Harrison at Glastonbury 2022. He denied having done so during his evidence last week. Barry is pictured being detained by police in Somerset on his way to Glastonbury festival on June 25, 2022

Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, allegedly one of three man who directed the shooting from a flat, told jurors he would 'never see no harm come' to Ms Dale or her boyfriend Lee Harrison - allegedly the real target. Pictured: CCTV footage of Fitzgibbon at Birmingham Airport before boarding a flight to Dubai on August 23, 2022 - two days after the shooting Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, allegedly one of three man who directed the shooting from a flat, told jurors he would 'never see no harm come' to Ms Dale or her boyfriend Lee Harrison - allegedly the real target. Pictured: CCTV footage of Fitzgibbon at Birmingham Airport before boarding a flight to Dubai on August 23, 2022 - two days after the shooting

Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, allegedly one of three man who directed the shooting from a flat, told jurors he would ‘never see no harm come’ to Ms Dale or her boyfriend Lee Harrison – allegedly the real target. Pictured: CCTV footage of Fitzgibbon at Birmingham Airport before boarding a flight to Dubai on August 23, 2022 – two days after the shooting

Fitzgibbon, who is also accused of Ms Dale’s murder, began giving evidence to the jury today. His counsel, John Cooper KC, asked him about his relationship with Harrison and Ms Dale.

He said: ‘They say you are an organiser of this terrible event – the killing, the murder of Ashley Dale, with the target originally of Lee Harrison. Were you an organiser in any way of that?’

Fitzgibbon replied: ‘No.’

Mr Cooper continued: ‘It’s the crown’s case that you were part of organising that hit. Did you in any way get involved?’

Fitzgibbon said: ‘No sir, Lee’s been my friend for years. I’d never see no harm come to Lee or Ashley.’

Mr Cooper then put to him: ‘Did you monitor the behaviour of others on that night?’

Fitzgibbon, of St Helens, Merseyside, responded: ‘No sir. Not at all.’

Mr Cooper: ‘The prosecution say that you knowingly involved yourself with a hit on Lee Harrison, with a common purpose that any other person in the way should be killed. Were you involved in the organisation of a hit on Lee Harrison, with also an understanding that anyone that was there at the time would be killed?’

Fitzgibbon, who is also accused of Ms Dale's murder, began giving evidence to the jury today. His counsel, John Cooper KC, asked him about his relationship with Lee Harrison and Ashley Dale (pictured) Fitzgibbon, who is also accused of Ms Dale's murder, began giving evidence to the jury today. His counsel, John Cooper KC, asked him about his relationship with Lee Harrison and Ashley Dale (pictured)

Fitzgibbon, who is also accused of Ms Dale’s murder, began giving evidence to the jury today. His counsel, John Cooper KC, asked him about his relationship with Lee Harrison and Ashley Dale (pictured)

Another of the accused, James Witham, (pictured being arrested at Glastonbury festival on suspicion of possession of a knife) admits kicking down the door of her house, where she was spending the evening alone with her dachshund Darla, and spraying the property with bullets from a Skorpion submachine gun Another of the accused, James Witham, (pictured being arrested at Glastonbury festival on suspicion of possession of a knife) admits kicking down the door of her house, where she was spending the evening alone with her dachshund Darla, and spraying the property with bullets from a Skorpion submachine gun

Another of the accused, James Witham, (pictured being arrested at Glastonbury festival on suspicion of possession of a knife) admits kicking down the door of her house, where she was spending the evening alone with her dachshund Darla, and spraying the property with bullets from a Skorpion submachine gun

Witham is expected to claim he did not see or hear Ashley and was instead attempting to 'send a message' to Harrison, who was not present at the time. Pictured: The house Leinster Road, Old Swan where Ashley Dale, 28, was shot dead Witham is expected to claim he did not see or hear Ashley and was instead attempting to 'send a message' to Harrison, who was not present at the time. Pictured: The house Leinster Road, Old Swan where Ashley Dale, 28, was shot dead

Witham is expected to claim he did not see or hear Ashley and was instead attempting to ‘send a message’ to Harrison, who was not present at the time. Pictured: The house Leinster Road, Old Swan where Ashley Dale, 28, was shot dead

Fitzgibbon: ‘No sir. That’s not true.

‘Lee’s always been my friend. I’d never see no harm come to Lee.’

Fitzgibbon told the court that he had known Harrison ‘for 10 plus years, or so’, adding: ‘I’ve always had a good healthy relationship with him, always had a laugh with him. I’ve partied with Lee since we were 17, 18 years old.’

When asked whether he knew Ashley, he said: ‘Yeah, I knew Ashley for years as well. She’s friends with our Olivia (McDowell, his cousin), my sisters. She’s a lovely girl.’

Fitzgibbon said he had known Ms Dale ‘since she’s been with Saz’, referring to Harrison’s nickname. He added: ‘I got to know her more often through partying in town together and being in festivals together.’

Mr Cooper then turned to events at Glastonbury 2022, when co-accused Niall Barry – known as ‘Branch’ – is alleged to have brandished a knife and threatened to stab Harrison. He denied having done so during his evidence last week.

But Fitzgibbon reported the incident had occurred on the Friday night or early hours of Saturday morning of the festival, ‘at a dance stage’, and that this had been the ‘first and last time’ that he had seen Barry at Glastonbury.

He said: ‘He (Barry) said hello to me and me girlfriend and other people we was with.

‘He said ‘have you seen Saz?’.

‘I said no. He said “tell him when you see him, I’m going to stab him up”.’

Mr Cooper asked: ‘Did he do anything when he said that to you?’

Fitzgibbon said: ‘He didn’t do nothing towards me. In his pocket he pulled out a knife, showed that he had a knife in his pocket.

‘He went into his pocket, showed the knife and said “when you see Lee, tell him I’m gonna stab him up” and put it away.’

Fitzgibbon said he had known Ms Dale 'since she's been with Saz', referring to Harrison's nickname. Pictured: Ashley Dale Fitzgibbon said he had known Ms Dale 'since she's been with Saz', referring to Harrison's nickname. Pictured: Ashley Dale

Fitzgibbon said he had known Ms Dale ‘since she’s been with Saz’, referring to Harrison’s nickname. Pictured: Ashley Dale

A sixth defendant - 26-year-old Kallum Radford, of Trentham Road in Kirkby - denies assisting an offender. He is pictured outside Liverpool Crown Court last month A sixth defendant - 26-year-old Kallum Radford, of Trentham Road in Kirkby - denies assisting an offender. He is pictured outside Liverpool Crown Court last month

A sixth defendant – 26-year-old Kallum Radford, of Trentham Road in Kirkby – denies assisting an offender. He is pictured outside Liverpool Crown Court last month

Mr Cooper said: ‘Did you say anything?’

Fitzgibbon replied: ‘I just said ok.’

Mr Cooper: ‘Did you want to be involved with Lee Harrison having harm caused to him?’

Fitzgibbon: ‘No. He’s me (sic) friend.’

Mr Cooper: ‘How did you feel when you were told Mr Barry was looking to stab him?’

Fitzgibbon: ‘Shocked, I couldn’t understand why he’d say that to me. He knows I’m mates with Lee.’

Mr Cooper: ‘He’s asking you, as a friend of Lee, to go and tell Lee?’

Fitzgibbon: ‘Basically, he was just drunk and off his head, but yeah. Everyone who’s there had been drinking, taking drugs.

‘I don’t understand why that happened while I’m standing there with my girlfriend, I just assumed he was off his head. He was a little bit rowdy.

‘I was just a bit shocked. I wanted to get hold of Lee and tell him what’s being said.

‘I wouldn’t want to see any harm come to Lee. He’s my friend.’

Mr Cooper then referenced a series of messages exchanged between Ashley’s and Fitzgibbon’s phones over the course of the Saturday of the festival. Harrison was said to be using Ms Dale’s phone to communicate with him at this time.

Fitzgibbon said of this: ‘I wanted to meet him in the festival, to tell him about the night before. Just the comments that were made to me by Barry.

‘I wanted to warn him. I didn’t want him to see no harm come to him at that festival.’

Fitzgibbon said he then met with Harrison, Ms Dale and their friend Jordan Thompson – also known as ‘Dusty’ – ‘at the Glade Stage’ at around 4pm or 5pm. Mr Cooper asked: ‘What was said during that meeting?’

Pictured: The damage caused to the tyres of Ms Dale’s car, which were allegedly slashed at 11.40pm on August 20 last year in an attempt to lure the occupants of her home on Leinster Road outside

Pictured: A bullet casing found under the bed in the home of Ashley Dale on Leinster Road in Old Swan, Liverpool Pictured: A bullet casing found under the bed in the home of Ashley Dale on Leinster Road in Old Swan, Liverpool

Pictured: A bullet casing found under the bed in the home of Ashley Dale on Leinster Road in Old Swan, Liverpool

Pictured: Items seized from Niall Barry's room at the Formby Hall Hotel following his arrest Pictured: Items seized from Niall Barry's room at the Formby Hall Hotel following his arrest

Pictured: Items seized from Niall Barry’s room at the Formby Hall Hotel following his arrest

He responded: ‘I said to him I’d seen Branch last night, he’s pulled a blade out and said he’s gonna stab you up. I said stay with me, be careful.

‘There’s a good few of them round here. Lee just replied saying he wasn’t gonna do nothing.

‘He seemed a bit put out with what I’d said to him. He weren’t too fazed, he just said I’m not gonna do nothing.

‘I wouldn’t like to see no harm come to Lee. He’s been my friend for years.’

Mr Cooper said that contact between Ashley’s and Fitzgibbon’s phones then continued into the evening and during the course of Sunday.

He asked his client: ‘Why, having warned him, did you want to see him again?’

Fitzgibbon said: ‘So he stays with me, to make sure he’s alright. He’s only there with Ashley, Dusty and his cousin.’

Prosecutor Paul Greaney KC told the jury of five men and seven women during the prosecution’s opening last month that Witham and ‘driver’ Joseph Peers, were ‘dispatched’ to assassinate Harrison and ‘leave no witnesses’.

They had allegedly received their orders from Barry, Sean Zeisz and Fitzgibbon – who were said to have been ‘directing operations’ from a flat on Pilch Lane in Huyton.

The court heard that, at around 11.40pm on August 20, 2022, two men approached Ashley’s white Volkswagen T-Roc car – which was parked outside her house in Old Swan, Liverpool – and slashed its tyres, causing the alarm to sound, in an effort to ‘lure’ the occupants out. But it is thought Ashley believed the alarm had been set off by heavy rain and did not leave her house.

Witham, Zeisz, Barry, 26, Tuebrook, Peers, 29, and Fitzgibbon have pleaded not guilty to murdering Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life. Witham has admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter.  Pictured: Ashley Dale Witham, Zeisz, Barry, 26, Tuebrook, Peers, 29, and Fitzgibbon have pleaded not guilty to murdering Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life. Witham has admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter.  Pictured: Ashley Dale

Witham, Zeisz, Barry, 26, Tuebrook, Peers, 29, and Fitzgibbon have pleaded not guilty to murdering Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life. Witham has admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter.  Pictured: Ashley Dale

Mr Greaney said: ‘The men who had damaged the car were not deterred. Fifty minutes later, at about 12.30am, they returned. This time, they were not to be diverted from their intention to kill. One of the men approached the front door and he kicked it in. Ashley plainly became aware of what was happening. She screamed and fled towards the back door of the house, but the man entered the house and he pursued her.

‘He was armed with a machine gun and opened fire. Ashley was struck by a bullet – it passed through her abdomen, causing catastrophic damage.’

Mr Greaney said that ‘certain events at Glastonbury Festival’ in June 2022 had ‘played an important part’ in the alleged motive behind the attack, adding: ‘Ashley Dale and Lee Harrison, her boyfriend, attended the festival, as did at least four of the defendants – Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Ian Fitzgibbon and James Witham. A group of other young men from Liverpool were also present, one of whom was a person called Jordan Thompson – who was known as Dusty.

‘Lee Harrison seems to have had an association with the group of which Dusty was part. Whilst at the festival, Sean Zeisz was assaulted and his attackers included Jordan Thompson.

‘This attack appears to have occurred because Sean Zeisz was, as it was later expressed, arguing with everyone for Niall Barry – who was known as Branch. To compound the loss of face for Sean Zeisz, in the aftermath of the assault his girlfriend – a woman called Olivia, known as Liv, McDowell – stayed with the group of which Jordan Thompson, Lee Harrison and Ashley Dale were part.

‘It is clear that Sean Zeisz felt deeply humiliated from what had happened at Glastonbury.’

Prosecutor Paul Greaney KC told the jury of five men and seven women during the prosecution's opening last month that Witham and 'driver' Joseph Peers, were 'dispatched' to assassinate Harrison and 'leave no witnesses'. Pictured: Peers during his arrest Prosecutor Paul Greaney KC told the jury of five men and seven women during the prosecution's opening last month that Witham and 'driver' Joseph Peers, were 'dispatched' to assassinate Harrison and 'leave no witnesses'. Pictured: Peers during his arrest

Prosecutor Paul Greaney KC told the jury of five men and seven women during the prosecution’s opening last month that Witham and ‘driver’ Joseph Peers, were ‘dispatched’ to assassinate Harrison and ‘leave no witnesses’. Pictured: Peers during his arrest

Witham and Peers had allegedly received their orders from Barry, Sean Zeisz and Fitzgibbon. Pictured: Sean Zeisz Witham and Peers had allegedly received their orders from Barry, Sean Zeisz and Fitzgibbon. Pictured: Sean Zeisz

Witham and Peers had allegedly received their orders from Barry, Sean Zeisz and Fitzgibbon. Pictured: Sean Zeisz

The court also heard that Barry then sided with Zeisz, with this ‘fresh’ dispute having compounded a ‘separate and longstanding antagonism towards Lee Harrison’.

Mr Greaney said: ‘Niall Barry used these new events at Glastonbury to reignite that old feud and, as tensions simmered in Liverpool, Niall Barry made a series of threats directed towards Lee Harrison.

Witham, Zeisz, Barry, 26, Tuebrook, Peers, 29, and Fitzgibbon have pleaded not guilty to murdering Ashley Dale, conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life. Witham has admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter.

A sixth defendant – 26-year-old Kallum Radford, of Trentham Road in Kirkby – denies assisting an offender. The trial, before Mr Justice Goose, continues.

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